For Youth Workers Post


Sally Chambers


“As a teenager, I got my first camera from my grandparents. I took pictures of everything. And my Granddad drove down to the local chemist daily to have a roll of film developed.

“I may have been snap-happy that summer; but somewhere along the road, photos became my art and then a way of prayer. Some people compose words or draw in journals to capture their connection with God; I often take photos.

“Today in the world of camera phones, Snapchat, and Instagram, the practice of praying with a camera is pretty inexpensive and accessible to all.” —Sally


Sally taking photoSally Chambers has been practicing youth ministry for nineteen years as part of her life with God and people; she is currently on sabbatical. By trade, she is a counselor and spiritual director. She is also a lover of art, photography, people, hosting, adventure, stories, a cup of tea, beauty, all things English, her niece and her Grandma, abbey ruins and cathedrals, creation in its grandeur and wildness, playlists, and her furry four-legged companion Doodlebug. Sally is a co-author of the leader’s guide to The Way of Pilgrimage and the creator of The Pilgrim’s Way, an approach to leading pilgrimage with teenagers and adults. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently on staff and worshiping with St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. She dreams of creating altars in the world where pilgrims may gather together, rest for a while, find renewed vision, be healed in body, heart, soul, and mind, and offer to the world the hope of God in Jesus Christ. Be sure to check out Sally’s blog.


  • Before the session, invite group members to bring their phones or cameras.
  • a candle
  • lighter
  • Bibles
  • newsprint
  • markers
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session


  • Invite the group to take a look at the Wall Street Journal’s “Year in Photos 2014.” Ask group members to consider which ones they like best. Use the pictures as a conversation starter.


Invite the group to say responsively:
        “The Lord be with you.”
        “And also with you.”
Then ask someone to light the candle.

Invite group members to close their eyes, to take a deep breath, and to relax. Invite them to pay attention to their breathing. Suggest that as they exhale, they imagine breathing out the distractions that occupy their mind, body, and spirit. Suggest that as they inhale, they imagine breathing in the peace of God. Encourage them to repeat the breathing exercise for a minute or two in the quiet.

Then say: “Now that we’ve become present to God, let’s become present to one another. Ask each person in turn to say his or her name and to answer these questions:
       Are you a picture person?
       Do you use Instagram or Snapchat? Why? Why not?

Introduce the session: “Today we are going to talk about taking photos and about how, in a snap-happy world, taking photos might be a spiritual practice or a way of prayer.”


Scripture: 2 Peter 1:16, Luke 2:29–32, Psalm 27:13–14

Have the group read together 2 Peter 1:16, Luke 2:29–32, and Psalm 27:13–14. Then ask:
       What do you notice in these sound bites of scripture?
       What do all the texts have in common?

Have the group identify the part of each verse that relates to seeing, and write their responses on newsprint:

  • “eyewitnesses of his majesty”
  • “my eyes have seen your salvation”
  • “I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”

       What might the scripture have to do with taking photos?
       How might these verses shape how we take pictures? (The verses call us to look for the presence of God in the world around us, to pay attention, to notice the small things as well as the big things that remind us of the living presence of God. They call us to ask the questions about what in this world points us back to God.)

Have group members take out their phones and look at their photos. Ask them to choose one or two pictures that might remind them of God or reflect the presence of God. If they are struggling, suggest that they look for photos of something beautiful, peaceful, or joyful. If you have a younger group without phones or without photos, provide a handout of photos from which they can choose. Then ask these questions about each photo they have chosen:
       How does the photo point to God?
       How is God’s presence communicated to you through the photo?

Reread Psalm 27:13–14. Ask the group:
       What does waiting have to do with seeing God in the land of the living? (Sometimes patience or waiting are needed to be able to see the goodness of God in the world around us. God isn’t always noticeable at first glance. Sometimes we need to be quiet and still to see God. Our lives are fast-paced; we’re always on the go—or so tired that all we want to do is to check out in front of a screen.)
       What does it mean to live in a snap-happy world? (We are very quick to take a picture, post it, and move on. Taking pictures has never been easier. Most people have a camera now.)
       How is taking a snap-happy picture different from taking a prayerful picture that reflects the presence of God?
       What difference does waiting make?

Say something like this: “Pausing before taking a photo means that you are taking a moment to notice, to be an eyewitness of God’s goodness before you. You are not taking a photo of God, but you are experiencing the presence of God. The photo then becomes the way you respond to the presence of God, as you might write in a journal after a thought-provoking sermon or a difficult day. We pray with words, but we can also pray with pictures.”
       What do you think about the idea of praying with your camera?
       How can pictures be prayers?


Begin by asking group members to say responsively:
       “The Lord be with you.”
       “And also with you.”

Then lead the group in the prayer below. Pray the prayer three times using the suggested actions, and invite the group to repeat each line after you.

     God be in my head and my understanding.  (Place both hands on your head.)
     God be in my ears and in my hearing.  (Place both hands on your ears.)
     God be in my mouth and in my speaking.  (Place both hands on your mouth.)
     God be in my eyes and in my seeing.  (Place both hands on your eyes.)
     God be in my heart and in my knowing.  (Place both hands on your heart.)

Invite group members to wander quietly, looking for the goodness of God in the space around them. Encourage them to pay attention. When they see something that garners their attention and feel that they have been eyewitnesses to God’s goodness, they are to stop, pause, and look at what they have seen and then to take a photo of it. When everyone has taken photo, bring the group together.

Invite group members to show the photos they have taken and to tell the group about the goodness they saw. When everyone has had a turn, ask:
       What was it like to pray with photos?

Close the session in prayer, asking God to make each of you aware of the goodness of God in the world around you.


  • If some of your group members are interested in going further, invite them to participate in a 7-week course from Abbey of the Arts on “Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Contemplative Practice.”
  • Invite group members to post on Pinterest or Instagram photos from the session (or that they take in the week ahead) of the moments in which they were eyewitnesses of God’s goodness.


—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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